Deep Impact - 1990 Audi V8 quattro DTM
Today, Audi is known as one of the industry's foremost luxury brands, but back in the 1980s it was a very different story. Although the turbocharged, four wheel drive quattro had boosted the company's image through numerous victories and titles in the world of rallying, it remained a bit of a homologation special for wealthy anoraks.
Other than the rally special, Audi's range basically consisted of large woolly sedans and wagons, mostly front wheel drive, and mostly powered by engines available in pedestrian Volkswagens. At the top of the pile, Audi fielded the 200, a large woolly sedan powered exclusively by five cylinder engines.
Although the five pot was very good indeed, and it became Audi's trademark engine format, the boffins at the top quickly realized they needed something with a bit more prestige to as an answer to their arch rivals at Mercedes-Benz and BMW. Both the contemporary S-Class and the 7-Series were available with a wide variety of engines, all of which crucially had more cylinders than the Audi.
In order to outclass BMW and match Mercedes, Audi would need to build an engine with at least eight cylinders. Rather than start with a clean sheet design, the decision was made to mate two 1.8L, 136 horsepower, 16-valve KR-engines from the Golf Mk2 16V on a common crank case, taking maximum advantage of the technology available within the Volkswagen-concern to save valuable development time and a load of budget.
The end result was a 250 horsepower, 32-valve, 90-degree 3.6L V8. With no real alternative, the engine was fitted to a stretched development of the Audi 100/200's C3-platform, rebranded as the D1-platform V8.
The V8 took to the showrooms in October of 1988, and was the first Audi to offer both an automatic transmission and quattro four wheel drive. A five-speed manual was also available at launch, but became a rarely ordered option.
With the V8, Audi knew they had a real competitor to Mercedes and BMW for the first time. But they needed more publicity to drive the point home. Simple ads in newspapers or on television would do little to convince the average consumer of the amazing leap forward Audi had made with the V8.
As with any car worth its salt, Audi knew they had to prove the V8's worth in motorsport. Starting with 1988's 200 Trans Am, the company had gone on a mission to display the quattro four wheel drive system's advantages on regular tarmac tracks, rather than the slippery surfaces associated with rallying.
Audi were banned for their troubles in 1988, and later on with the mad 90 IMSA GTO in the 1989 IMSA season. With the V8 though, the firm would look a bit closer to home both in terms of location and technology. Whereas the American cars were highly specialized machines, the competition version of the V8 was intended for the popular Deutsche Tourenwagen Meisterschaft (German Touringcar Championship) and would have to follow FIA Group A rules.
It was quite hard to picture the big executive limo as a fire-breathing, hard-charging touring car racer.
Since Group A demanded very strict homologation requirements in direct opposition to Trans Am and IMSA, much of the original lavish luxury limo had to be retained. At its lightest, a regular production V8 weighed a lardy 1721 kg (3774 lbs). This was entirely too much for any serious racing car, but even more of a handicap given the V8's intended competition.
BMW and Mercedes-Benz were already heavily involved in DTM, and used completely different concepts. Both marques fielded amazingly lightweight compacts sedans in the M3 and 190E 2.5-16 Cosworth Evo, which both clocked in around a breezy 980 kg (2160 lbs).
If Audi was to take on these featherweight tin tops, the V8 would have to go on a drastic crash diet. However, even with the full use of the rule book, the completely stripped car still weighed a hefty 1220 kg (2698 lbs). With as much a 240 kg (529 lbs) over its rivals, the big Audi needed some serious power to compensate.
To this end, the engine was heavily reworked to produce some 414 horsepower. This compared favorably to the BMW and Mercedes, which were stuck at around 330. With DTM's proposed banishment of turbocharged engines for 1991 in response to the dominance of the Ford Sierra RS Cosworth, and Ford's subsequent withdrawal, Audi's V8 was easily the most powerful engine in the series.
A reinforced version of the recently introduced 6-speed manual transmission was bolted to the furious V8, and fed the power into all four wheels through the famous quattro system. With tire sizes limited by the width of the standard V8's wheel arches, Audi was unable to apply the same tricks used in the American campaign.
In a similar vein, the exterior of the car had to remain identical to the production model. Because of this, there were no aerodynamic aids to speak of, as the car kept the clean lines typical of a contemporary high-end German business sedan. With the car ready for action, German racing specialists Schmidt MotorSport (SMS) were brought in to run the car in DTM.
The V8 made its debut at the first round of the 1990 season, held at the tight and twisty track of Zolder in the North-East of Belgium. The nature of the circuit wasn't too kind to the big Audi, as it suffered from its excess weight. As a result of this disadvantage, chronic understeer and engine temperature problems, the single car driven by double Le Mans winner Hans Joachim Stuck could only get 14th in the first heat.
The second time around he managed to get the big barge going however, as he clinched Audi's first podium with a well deserved third place, though he was some 30,49 seconds behind the winning Mercedes 190E of Kurt Thiim (DEN). Audi clearly had some work to do, but it was going in the right direction.
At Hockenheim, Stuck finished 6th behind three BMWs and two Mercedes, as Klaus Ludwig (GER) took the win in Heat 1 with his 190E. In the second heat, Hans Joachim recorded a fine second place just 3.17 seconds behind Johnny Cecotto's (VEN) BMW M3 Sport Evolution, taking advantage of the long straights and demonstrating the rapid development behind the V8.
The Nurburgring Grand Prix Strecke saw a retirement for the Audi in the first heat, as it unfortunately crashed out. SMS suffered another bad result for Stuck in Heat 2, as the tall German was classified 16th despite dropping out two laps before the end. Clearly, the car still had some teething issues.
For the fourth round of the season at Berlin's AVUS Ring, Audi was looking stronger than ever. In use since 1921, the Automobil Verkehrs und Ubungsstrasse (Automobile Traffic and Testing Road) was essentially nothing more than two stretches of autobahn joined by tight hairpin curves.
Aside from the obvious power advantage, the V8 profited from its six-speed transmission, enabling it to run shorter ratios than its competitors. BMW and Mercedes drivers had to run such long ratios they had to slip their clutches in the hairpins to keep their cars going. Thanks to the extra gear, the four wheel drive system and the added torque of the bigger motor, Hans Joachim Stuck had no such issue.
A fourth party had entered the scene at AVUS, as Opel introduced the new Omega 3000 24V, a large sedan powered by a 3.0L, 360 horsepower straight six. However, the big Opel was only rear wheel drive, and didn't have the power to overcome its 1130 kg (2491 lbs) weight.
With Mercedes and BMW on the back foot, and Opel not real threat, Hans Joachim Stuck and his Audi V8 comfortable swept the weekend. Easy wins in both heats finally announced Audi's arrival at the head of the DTM field.
Next up on the calendar was one of DTM's unique airfield circuits, at Mainz-Finthen. Due to his success at AVUS, HJ Stuck had been slowed down with "success weight", ballast intended to keep the racing exciting.
Thanks to this weight penalty, he was no major player in the weekend's proceedings. Plagued by the weight and excess understeer, he finished 15th in Heat 1. Heat 2 was even more disastrous, as a fuel pump issue caused the Audi to slow on lap 41 out of 45.
In an effort to correct the V8's ongoing understeer and engine temperature problems, Audi formed a separate team just for testing purposes. Headed by the unflappable pragmatic former World Rally Champion Walter Rohrl, the squad was able to correct the car's flaws in time for the sixth round of the season at the military airfield of Wunstorf. Rohrl's hard test work duly paid off, as Hans Joachim Stuck easily took top honors in both races.
At the support race for the 24 Hours of Nurburgring, AMG rolled out the latest development of the 190E 2.5-16, the Evolution II. The car received a 43 horsepower boost up to 373, and sported a much larger rear wing, pronounced fender flares and revised underbody aerodynamics.
Though the Evo II's introduction proved to be a bit premature, Audi was unable to take advantage of the Mercedes' stumbling debut. The overweight, lumbering V8 had a hard time reconciling itself with the harsh environment of the infamous 25 kilometer Nordschleife. Heat 1 netted a DNF, followed by a distant 11th in the second race.
Walter Rohrl came to back up Hans Joachim Stuck at the tight street circuit known as the Norisring, marking the first time Audi fielded more than one car. The old master was immediately on the pace, and helped score Audi's first 1-2 finish by shadowing Stuck throughout Heat 1. The pair fell behind slightly the second time around though, as Hans Joachim Stuck placed third, followed by Rohrl in fifth
The string of successes had their flipside however, as the V8s were finally slapped with 80 kg (176 lbs) success ballast. Immediately, the extra bulk started to cause problems. Stuck complained his car was now even slower than the terrible Opels, and the extra strain on suspension, brakes and driveshafts became dangerously high.
In the opening race, Walter Rohrl was the best-placed of the Audis with 9th to HJ Stuck's 14th. However, a driveshaft failure sidelined the stoic German in Heat 2, leaving the tall team leader to take 8th for three more championship points.
The third showing at the Nurburgring Grand Prix Strecke saw 50 kg (110 lbs) taken back out of the Audis, to the chagrin of Mercedes and BMW. The first race didn't show a return to form however, as Walter Rohrl settled for 8th, and Hans Joachim Stuck was 11th.
Rohrl jostled for a podium in Race 2 though, and was gifted the win after a dramatic pit board error by BMW driver Emanuele Pirro's pit crew. Stuck on the other hand had to make due with 10th place.
For the final round of the championship back at Hockenheim, Schmidt MotorSport entered a third V8 for former Porsche Group C racer Frank Jelinski (GER). Frustration and heavy battling between Mercedes and BMW drivers saw Audi and even Opel take maximum advantage in the first heat, as Klaus Niedzwiedz Omega briefly held the lead ahead of the big V8s before suffering a holed radiator.
Title hopeful Johnny Cecotto was torpedoed by a young Michael Schumacher in the first corner of the opening lap, and even Klaus Ludwig displayed a case of the red mist by attempting to spin out Hans Joachim Stuck. The giant Audi scoffed at the puny Merc's attack however, and blasted away unfazed. With Stuck, Jelinski and Rohrl locking out the podium in that exact order in both races, Audi secured the Driver's Title for Stuck with crushing dominance.
For 1991, Audi devised an Evo version of the V8 quattro. Fitted with a front splitter, a big rear wing, wider wheel arches for wider tires and a bump to 440 horsepower, the car immediately drew the ire of BMW and Mercedes.
It was promptly adorned with another 40 kg of ballast right off the bat. In response, BMW and Mercedes had incorporated a new technology in several of their top cars: ABS. Finally, Opel introduced the Evolution 500, a bewinged, 400 horsepower development of the Omega.
Additionally, Audi propped up a second team, Audi Zentrum Reutlingen. AZR would field two cars for Frank Jelinski and Mercedes-defector Frank Biela (GER), while SMS put former Opel 2L driver Hubert Haupt (GER) next to Hans Joachim Stuck.
The opening round at Zolder didn't go entirely in Audi's favor. Heat 1 gave a best result of 9th for HJ Stuck, with Biela 15th, Jelinski 17th and Haupt 19th. The second race saw Stuck and Biela fire through the field back to the top, placing second and third. Frank Jelinski improved to 10th, while Hubert Haupt was a non-starter.
At Hockenheim, Audi was again on the back foot. Hans Joachim Stuck again headed the Audi effort in 11th, followed closely by Frank Jelinski. Frank Biela and Hubert Haupt were dragging behind however, finishing 19th and 26th.
In Race 2 Stuck fought his way to fifth, but encountered clutch problems. When the success weight-stricken Johnny Cecotto attempted to pass the slowing Audi, Stuck suddenly found a gear again, and the pair collided. Cecotto was disqualified for the incident, which saw Frank Biela move up to third, as Jelinski took 6th. Haupt was once again recorded as DNS.
DTM's first visit to the Nurburgring GP-Strecke in 1991 didn't net a win for Audi either. Frank Biela was steadily establishing himself as Audi's new ace. With 6th and 7th, he was easily the best V8 driver of the weekend. By contrast, Hans Joachim Stuck placed 10th before being taken out by Altfrid Heger's BMW. Frank Jelinskii recorded 11th and 8th, with Hubert Haupt 15th and 11th.
Naturally, the long straights of AVUS set the stage for Audi's resurgence. Once again helped by their massive power and superior traction, the big bruisers swept the weekend. Stuck, Biela, Jelinski, Haupt made a devastating 1-2-3-4 in race 1, a lockdown only broken by a power steering pump failure and slight fire for Jelinski in race 2.
Audi's competitors were becoming ever more frustrated with the blistering pace of the V8 quattro Evo on high speed tracks
Biela and Stuck swapped places, while Haupt once again took third. Predictably, the cars were immediately protested by BMW and Mercedes. Audi countered by pointing out the cars were running with 60 kg extra ballast, and the fact AVUS was clearly geared for horsepower and traction alone, making it a terrible representative of their actual pace. No further action was taken as a result.
Audi was unable to replicate the previous season's strong performances at Wunstorf Air Base. Despite a 40 kg diet, the best V8 was stuck in fifth place in Race 1, driven by Frank Biela. Hubert Haupt was tenth, followed by HJ Stuck in 16th. Frank Jelinski on the other hand had to pull over after his bonnet flew up at high speed, destroying his windshield.
Biela retained his strong form in the second race, scoring a fine fourth for AZR. Teammate Frank Jelinski again had an argument with his bonnet, and failed to finish once more. For SMS, it was a weekend to forget, as Stuck grabbed 11th, while Haupt suffered a rare engine failure.
On the tight and very harsh streets of the Norisring, Audi was free from controversy. The smaller and more nimble M3s and 190Es took charge, leaving the V8s to take places 5-8 (Biela, Stuck, Jelinski, Haupt) in Race 1.
Free from ballast, Hans Joachim Stuck emerged as a dark horse in the second race, taking a surprise win ahead of the Mercedes of Kurt Thiim and Roland Asch (GER), and sparking rumors of his V8 producing at least 500 horsepower. Frank Jelinski came in 5th, with Frank Biela 11th. Huber Haupt on the other hand was forced to retire from third place after a driveshaft failed.
On the runways of Diepholz, Hans Joachim Stuck continued his storming drive back to the head of the Audi squad. He had initially been running in service of points leader Frank Biela at the Norisring, but the airfield track brought out the hard charger in him.
He hounded BMW's Jacques Laffite until the French former F1-star burned up his tires, and took a confident win. Meanwhile Biela scored another set of valuable points in fourth. Huber Haupt finished sixth initially, but was disqualified for a rather exuberant smash into Johnny Cecotto's BMW. Frank Jelinski trailed behind in 21st.
Race 2 saw BMW's Armin Hahne slam into Stuck's V8, but HJ was able to recover to finish fourth. Misfires relegated Frank Biela to sixth, while Haupt hung around in 16th and Jelinski failed to make the start.
The highs of the Norisring and Diepholz were quickly followed by a low back at the Nurburgring GP-Strecke, a track which Audi still couldn't really master. Biela and Stuck were the only two to finish with 8th and 9th in Race 1, while Haupt suffered another blown engine, and Jelinski crashed out on lap 14.
Race 2 went even worse, as Biela was stuck in 11th, ahead of Stuck in a dismal 16th. Hubert Haupt's car wasn't ready to take the second start, while Frank Jelinski repeated his result by binning his V8 again on lap 13.
A new venue was added to the roster for round 6 of the 1991 season, a rough, narrow and high-kerbed, almost improvised track on an industrial estate near the town of Singen. Hubert Haupt came under fire in the first race, as he made sure Kurt Thiim's leading Mercedes would fall behind Frank Biela's chasing Audi with a gentle nudge.
Haupt had been a few laps behind following an unscheduled pit stop, but couldn't resist aiding his fellow Audi driver. He was disqualified from Race 1's results and even banned for race two. Biela duly won the race, with Stuck third ahead of Jelinski in fourth. Hans Joachim took the top spot in the second heat followed by Biela, but the AZR driver was disqualified for jumping a restart behind the pace car. With Haupt absent, Frank Jelinski took third.
Back at Hockenheim for the season finale, Audi had everything to play for. Mercedes' Klaus Ludwig lead the driver's standings, but both Hans Joachim Stuck and Frank Biela had a realistic shot at the title. With Hubert Haupt's fall from grace at Singen, SMS brought back Walter Rohrl as a security, even though he had actually refused to race in 1991, as he found circuit racing quite boring.
Frank Biela was able to keep himself entertained however, as he clocked a time 1.66 seconds faster than any BMW, Opel or Mercedes in qualifying. In the Mercedes camp, it was theorized Audi's V8 actually had the same hp/L ratio as their cars, which would mean 520 horsepower and a grossly underweight body.
In any case, the legality of the V8 really didn't matter, as the first race was interrupted by rain. Though initially drafted as Stuck's tail gunner, Frank Biela was released when Hans Joachim slowed with a misfire to 14th place. As a result he managed to battle his way to the win, followed closely by Frank Jelinski and Walter Rohrl for another podium lockout as the race was red-flagged halfway through
The rain didn't stop for Race 2, essentially giving the all wheel drive Audis the win by default. The four limousines hurtled off into the distance, with the even the slowest driven by a conservative Walter Rohrl a demoralizing minute ahead of Klaus Ludwig's Mercedes in fifth.
From fourth in the standings ahead of the Hockenheim race, all of a sudden Frank Biela found himself to be the 1991 DTM Champion, simultaneously making Audi the first manufacturer to successfully defend a title in the series.
With the 1991 Driver's Title wrapped up, the DTM circus went across borders for the two-round ITR Cup. This miniature championship within a championship didn't count towards the driver's standings, but did add to the constructors and teams' battles.
At Brno in the Czech Republic, Audi wasn't at its strongest. Frank Biela was 11th in race 1, followed by a returning Hubert Haupt (12th) and Frank Jelinski (16th), while Hans Joachim Stuck failed to finish. Round two went a little better though. Jelinski place 6th and Biela 7th, with both Stuck and Haupt retiring.
The ITR final at Donington Park saw Frank Biela take back to back wins in heated battles with BMW's local hero Steve Soper, putting a nice bow on Audi's 1991 campaign. Frank Jelinski scored 6th and 16th, while the SMS cars again retired in the first race. HJ Stuck took 8th in the spare car, but Haupt was unable to start.
Thanks to its continuing success and ever louder complaints from BMW and Mercedes, the V8 was again given a large slab of ballast at the start of the 1992 season. Weight was now a massive 1300 kg (2866 lbs), 320 kg (705 lbs) more than its rivals.
In order to keep their competitive edge, Audi went into the deep dark grey areas of the rule book. Since Group A strictly mandated the used of production-derived parts, it would be nearly impossible to draw even more power from the V8. However, Audi's tech boffins found a way.
By twisting the standard 90-degree crossplane crankshaft during the forging process, they were able to create a 180-degree flatplane example. This was the same technology used in Formula One, enabling much higher revs and more top end power, at the cost of low end torque. The nifty fix gave the engine upwards of 500 horsepower, although Audi maintained an official figure of 470.
Though the shady engine initially cleared scrutineering, BMW and Mercedes didn't take too long to object to it. A flurry of protests were logged by the top companies, flooding governing body ITR and forcing them to act.
Though Audi had plenty of problems including numerous engine and transmission failures during the season, their rivals were relentless in their pursuit to ban the questionable V8.
Halfway through the season, with six rounds run and just a single win and a 3rd place for Frank Biela, a 2nd place for Hans Joachim Stuck and 3rd for Frank Jelinski, the V8's ingenious crankshaft was finally banned. Citing "a violation of the spirit of the regulations", the ITR ruled out the latest version of the massive four-ringed racer.
Faced with the public fallout from the embarrassing scandal, Audi chose to pull out of DTM immediately, leaving just Mercedes and BMW to duke it out after the departure of Opel at the end of 1991.
With the championship weakened by the loss of two of the four big companies, and the Group A era drawing to a close worldwide, the ITR instigated the creation of a new 2.5L, naturally aspirated touring car class for 1993, which would become known as FIA Class 1. The more liberal formula attracted interest from Alfa Romeo and a reinvigorated Opel, moving Audi to create a new weapon based on the recently released Audi 80 B4.